Numerous Opportunities for Me to Reference Myself

You know, being ahead of the trend really requires a grace that few of you will ever have to  achieve. One must possess tact and feel a sense of noblesse obligé when others come, excited about news or hip new fads, and I, princess of politesse that I am, do not yawn, roll my eyes, or belch at them – sometimes it’s fun to burp when you are bored or annoyed – because their exciting little tidbit is, frankly, passé, to me.

Of course, I understand that there is a certain degree of natural synchronicity in the universe, but, to be honest, I do believe that much of the time, I come up with an original, never-before-imagined idea, and the rest of the world just copies me. I know, I know… it’s the most sincere form of flattery, blah, blah, blah. Still, all I ask is for the proper credit, perhaps a little praise for my prescience. And monetary compensation. That’s more than reasonable, non?

For example, NPR recently called me. I usually only answer when it’s that sassy, randy minx, my Marketplace manfriend, Kai Ryssdal, calling. (Sample conversation: “What’s the market doing now, Kai… do I see that little NASDAQ going up? My, how your portfolio is increasing! Who’d like to make an investment?!”)

I thought it was Kai-Kins, so I picked up. Quel horreur! It was that wretch, Nina Tottenberg, attempting yet again to best me. This rivalry has been going on ever since Garrison Keillor tried to lure me to his prairie home, while completely ignoring her awkward, pathetic advances.

“AVR, Darling, I believe we have finally scooped you! My Weekend Edition team found the most adorable little coffee shop, full of the most delightfully real people, in which to do an election piece! You’ll simply never guess where it is!”

I thought long, but not hard, which I think would be a great title for an older adult contemporary concept album.

“Did you go to Trudy’s Diner in Idaho City, Idaho, Nina?” I asked.

The initial shocked silence on the other end of the line was satisfying, but when Nina started shrieking hysterically and calling me names I simply can’t bring myself to mention here, my victory grew a bit tiresome. I ended the conversation the same way I end most of my dialogues with Ms.Tottenberg, or, for that matter, with that slutty Diane Rehm.

“Idaho, Nina? Let’s be real, shall we? You da ho! Everyone knows whoClick and Clack, The Tappit brothers, are really tapping! Good day!”

My faithful readers will recall this recent post in which not only did I bring Idaho City to you, but I also had a special shout out to my friends at Trudy’s. That’s because I am a real journalist and cutting edge trend-setter. Here’s the NPR piece.  Nina was so upset she had to get her lackey, Rachel Martin, to do it.

Of course, you know that two of the books I reported on have been made into major motion pictures this year. Perks of Being a Wallflower, the young adult novel by Stephen Chbosky is currently in theaters.

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, is coming out October 24th. It’s huge! I mentioned it way back in 2011 here: Back then I hoped the movie didn’t suck. I still do.

Speaking of good books being turned into movies that hopefully don’t suck, Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann is in production now, with J.J. Abrams of Lost fame at the helm. Could go either way. One of the great things about that book was Mr. McCann’s gorgeous prose, and I don’t know that the big screen will be able to capture that. One of the great things about Lost was Desmond.  Damn. I just love me some Desmond, brutha. Even dirty, bloody and sweaty. Hell, who am I kidding? Especially dirty bloody and sweaty! Don’t judge me! At least I didn’t get his face tattooed on what appears to be my slightly hairy upper thigh. Yet.  Hey, Click on this: No, seriously! Click on it!

OK, back to the highbrow lowdown you’ve come to expect from me. Here’s Colum McCann’s website: . His new book, Transatlantic, comes out next year. You can hear him reading from it here:

I’ve been reading a book of short stories by Etgar Keret, an Israeli writer, called Suddenly, A Knock at the Door. Mr. Keret’s imagination is truly inspiring, and the depth of the stories he manages to tell in just a couple of pages is amazing. I was going to tell you all about him, so you’d be the first on your block to know, but then Selected Shorts scooped me big time! Crap’s Ass! Anyway, listen to him speak about writing and hear one of his stories read here: When you are finished listening, scrape up all of your money and send me to NYC to hear him and Gary Shteyngart ( speak on April 17th. I’ll make it worth your while!

Finally, you know how many times I have warned you about birds. They are dirty, full of mites, have flat, beady eyes, and sharp pecky beaks. They fly, which means they are capable of- and enjoy!- dive bombing missions, and they believe the world is their toilet. Their legs are made of dinosaur-snake skin (Evolution, my dear Watson!) and they have talons to claw at your eyes and rip out your vocal chords so that you can’t scream for help.

But here’s the worst thing: They are getting bigger and bolder. Think about it; there have always been big blackbirds, but when you were a kid do you remember grackels the size of a terrier? Do you remember them standing their ground in the street and staring into your car’s grille, just daring you to hit them? No sirree, Bob, those feathered footballs have grown huge bird balls, and they are coming for you! I took these pictures recently to illustrate my point.  Notice how the birds line the telephone wires. That’s pretty horrifying. They are listening to our conversations. They are watching. Watching and waiting. Preparing to wing off to their leader. Freaky. Weirder still is the way they are hanging out on the parking lot, pacing. Why are they there? I go in a little closer to investigate.

 I’m not gonna lie. I was spooked, and my camera got a little shaky. There was no food on the parking lot, no nest building materials, nothing sparkly. Why would they be hanging out on the ground?

I looked around. Nobody in the lot but me. The streetlights were about to come on, providing a glow to the dusk. I scanned the surrounding signage; one of them said “STOP!”, which seemed like a good idea, and another said “Park, Lock and Hide.” Then it hit me; those birds were just waiting for some sucker to forget to lock his Lexus and then they were going to jack that ride! Fuckers! They are afraid of nothing, and people, they will steal     your     car!! No lie, GI!

I know what you’re thinking. Has it come to this? I, too, thought perhaps I might be slightly paranoid. There was only one thing left to do. I needed to stare those beasts right in their flat, beady, red eyes and judge their true intentions for myself. I was terrified. But I’m a journalist, and that’s what we do.

I crept up to one of the beaked bastards carefullly, quietly. I steeled myself and tapped him on the shoulder. Slowly he turned….this is what I saw. Judge his intentions for yourself.


I know. Hideous. Birds are Beelzebub. You heard it here first. I hate to tell you I told you so, but…well, suffice it to say, being right all the time is a bit of a curse.

Of course, I am not the first to notice the increasingly hostile attitudes of the feathered fiends. Daphne Du Maurier brilliantly chronicled their homicidal natures in her famous short story, “The Birds”. If you haven’t read it, it’s really good; it’s a wonderful example of build and suspense. Here is how she describes the birds for the first time in the story:

In spring the birds flew inland, purposeful, intent; they knew where they were bound; the rhythm and ritual of their life brooked no delay. In autumn those that had not migrated overseas but remained to pass the winter were caught up in the same driving urge, but because migration was denied them, followed a pattern of their own. Great flocks of them came to the peninsula, restless, uneasy, spending themselves in motion; now wheeling, circling in the sky, now settling to feed on the rich, new-turned soil; but even when they fed, it was as though they did so without hunger, without desire. Restlessness drove them to the skies again. 

Black and white, jackdaw and gull, mingled in strange partnership, seeking some sort of liberation, never satisfied, never still. Flocks of starlings, rustling like silk, flew to fresh pasture, driven by the same necessity of movement, and the smaller birds, the finches and the larks, scattered from tree to hedge as if compelled. 

It only gets worse from there.

HBO has obviously been reading this blog, and has realized that what interests me interests the world, and so they have just aired a made-for-tv movie called “The Girl”, which is about the single-minded, relentless obsession Alfred Hitchock had with his leading lady, Tippi Hedren. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ll bet it’s pretty good, so I give HBO my blessing – this time. But it was my idea.

One last thing: a quick review of a movie I have seen, Seven Psychopaths. It’s good, real good! I give it a solid “A”. It’s beautifully shot, interesting and oddly funny, and the cast is fantastic. Props to KW for picking it out and making me go see it. KW, I will never doubt you again! I can say that confidently knowing you won’t hold me to it, as you’ll never read this, since it’s not on Facebook.

One other last thing: Daphne Du Maurier also wrote a story called “The Doll” about a young woman’s obsession with a mechanical sex doll. I’ll investigate it immediately.

Before I Get Up…

Good Morning! It’s 11:00 a.m. on a magnificent November day. The sky is an almost unbearably piercing blue, the grass is getting crunchy under my feet, and there is a crisp sense of clarity and possibility riding on the wind. I’m still in bed under a cloud of covers, drinking my coffee, enjoying the promise of a big, wide-open day. I love this feeling!

Some of my students forced me into having a book club, and the first one I made them read was one that McAdams turned me onto about five years ago. It was classified as a young adult book at the time, but evidently someone read it and decided that even though it deals with all of things that make young adulthood such a surreal, confusing time, those types of themes are too mature for that age group, so bookstores have moved it to the adult literature section. This is all fine with me, as I am well past adolescence, and would prefer to read only big girl books at this point, so I need Border’s to remind me what is appropriate for me. Anyway, I remember really liking the book, but I forgot why, on account of I dismissed it because I am an adult and it was for kids, so now that it is an adult book and I, too, am adult, I am re-reading it and can proudly tell you why I like it so much.
The book is called the perks of being a wallflower, and it’s by Stephen Chbosky, who doesn’t believe in capitalizing titles. (You grammar goons got all excited, thinking you had caught me! Ha ha! Foiled again, suckahs!) It’s a classic, and it’s going to be a movie with Emma Watson and Logan Lerman, next year, I think.

By the by, I hear Colum Mcann’s Let the Great World Spin is going to be made into a film, with J.J. Abrams of Lost fame producing. You heard it here first! Finger on the pulse, right?

Anyhow, so this wallflower book is really good, and my students love it, and it just adds to their growing realization that I am the coolest teacher ever. I am enjoying the re-read, and I am finding elements of great beauty and resonance that I probably missed the first time. For example, today I read page 33. Here is a portion of it, reprinted without permission. If Mr. Chbosky asks me to, I’ll remove it, but if you don’t tell him, I won’t either. By the way, for those who are purists, the ellipses are mine.
There is a feeling that I had Friday night after the homecoming game that I don’t know if I will ever be able to describe except to say that it is warm. Sam and Patrick drove me to the party that night, and I sat in the middle of Sam’s pickup truck … the feeling I had happened when Sam told Patrick to find a station on the radio. And he kept getting commercials… and a really bad song about love that had the word “baby” in it… and finally he found this really amazing song about this boy, and we all got quiet.
Sam tapped her hand on the steering wheel. Patrick held his hand outside the car and made air waves. And I just sat between them. After the song finished, I said something.
“I feel infinite.”
And Sam and Patrick looked at me like I said the greatest thing they ever heard. Because the song was that great and because we all really paid attention to it. Five minutes of a lifetime were truly spent, and we felt young in a good way. I have since bought the record, and I would tell you what it was, but truthfully, it’s not the same unless your driving to your first real party, and your sitting in the middle of a pickup truck between two nice people when it starts to rain.
And that’s just part of page 33. Pretty deep for a young adult. Do you think they get it?
One time, when I was in high school, a group of us broke out of our teenage apathy and went to this apartment complex called “The Bluffs”, so named because it was built next to this big, rocky, cliff-like formation. We live in one of those cities where there’s not all that much real nature, so we were drawn to the fake nature, and it seemed good enough to us. We stood in a circle at the foot of the bluffs reading the sign that forbid us from entering, and got high. Then, like a bunch of ants, we climbed over the fence and swarmed the bluffs. I remember a blur of high tops and denim, and hands reaching down to me, and me pushing someone up from behind, and the long, straight, blond hair and Pepsodent smile of the head cheerleader, as she clapped when the fat, pimply-faced, funny kid looked over the rim of his glasses and said, incredulously, “I made it!” I was a freshman and they were all seniors and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. We sat at the top of the chalk hill on a cool night and looked at the cars on the highway and the lights of the city. I was cold, and the boy who was my first true love held my skinny hand in his big, warm one. We all sat there, boys and girls with different stories, suspended for a moment between the present and the future, before my friends graduated and went off to real life, and I flunked out of that school and was transferred to a new one, and The Bluffs were torn down to make the parking lot bigger for the shitty apartments that would soon be torn down, also.
We climbed down, slowly this time, and sat in the car with the heat on, and silently passed around another joint, and listened to Pink Floyd’s “Time” from Dark Side of the Moon for the billionth time, and were so simultaneously alone and together in our thoughts that we all jumped when the bells go off at the end of the song, truly surprised, yet again. We laughed and poked each other in the ribs and decided to go get something to eat.
And then, I felt infinite, because I had shared time and been young and grown up and scared and cold and proud and warm, and had seen that maybe there was and would be sadness around, but also, great joy. There was the fierce pain and indescribable beauty of “fleeting”, and also, I knew even as the moment sparked, burned, and fizzled out, that it would be with me forever. I knew that things were going to change, and that they always would, and that glimpses of perfection were flukes, impossible to produce or replicate, but that there is great security in the knowledge that perfection is out there, and every once in awhile, it will find you. It was too much to fully take in, and I’m glad I saw it then through a bit of a cloud, but now, it’s sharp, and focused, because memory has diluted it to the purest essence.
Time in a lifetime truly spent. Who doesn’t get it?
Today I have a big, wide day ahead of me. The sky is blueblueblue and life is bigbigbig and I am sososo happy to be living mine.
BONUS: Let the Great World Spin combines stories that converge, if only momentarily, when Philip Petit walked across the Twin Towers on a tight rope in 1974. This picture is a still from the documentary Man On A Wire by James Marsh. Isn’t it amazing?P.S. To B.A. – I will never be able to thank you enough for all that you have done for me, and I don’t think I will ever be able to put into words all that you mean to me. I hardly ever see you and we don’t talk much, but I think about you.